Blais targeting price fixing at the pumps

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Cumberland Councilor Stephen Blais is warning gas retailers in Ottawa to obey competition laws or face stiff consequences from the City.

“Price fixing is illegal and won’t be tolerated in Ottawa,” says Blais. “Anyone manipulating gas prices has perpetrated a fraud against the City and the public and it won’t be tolerated.”

For many years, there has been suspicion that this kind of illegal activity was being conducted within the retail gas industry. With the admission by three prominent gas retailers that collusion has taken place in other parts of Ontario, Blais wants assurances that it is not taking place in Ottawa.

“You could hear a collective ‘I knew it’ when the news broke,” adds Blais. “While it doesn’t surprise me, it certainly upsets and disappoints me.”

The City of Ottawa, under By-law 2002-189, issues licenses for gas stations within our municipality. The City licenses these venues for the purpose of protecting public health and safety and eliminating nuisance activity. When the City deems it appropriate to license certain businesses or activities, it does so for the aforementioned reasons and or for consumer protection.

The City of Ottawa is also major purchaser of fuel. In 2011, the City purchased 7.2 million litres of gasoline and 51.5 million litres of diesel at a total value of $61.7 million.

If illegal price fixing or manipulation be found taking place in the City of Ottawa, Blais will be asking that City Council review the penalties available under our municipal bylaws including the cancellation and termination of ALL contracts with the guilty companies, their subsidiaries and affiliates.

Additionally, Blais will advocate for a ban on ALL purchases made from the affected companies and for the exclusion of the companies from current and future City procurement.

On behalf of concerned residents and taxpayers, Blais and Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Steve Desroches have written the three companies that admitted to price fixing, asking them to provide demonstrable assurances that collusion and price manipulation is not taking place in Ottawa.